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bolster your financial confidence in 2017 with a year end review

As the holiday festivities roll around, many of us are thinking about 2017. What steps can we take to start off with a clean slate in the new year? One urgent priority should be conducting a year-end financial review and creating a well-balanced plan for the future, preferably with a financial professional. Not only will it help you start off strong, but it also will bring clarity and precision to your financial outlook.

Of course, this proactive approach doesn't bring just short-term benefit. A year-end review and wrap-up of remaining plans can help you prepare well for long-term retirement goals and overall financial security. If you need to have your own financial review done, read on for some quick tips to consider during your annual review and planning process.

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5 ways to boost your financial wellness during the holiday season

The holidays offer a great opportunity for us to reconnect with loved ones, relatives, and friends. From Thanksgiving dinners and seasonal gift shopping to holiday get-togethers and family gatherings, these times are truly special. But apart from the joy, merriment, good cheer, and great company, many Americans find this period financially stressful.

Discretionary spending, in the form of gift buying and other holiday shopping, ups the pressure on household budgets. And for a large proportion of retired and working Americans, the coming year-end may increase the brunt of existing financial pressures and obligations. Having sufficient income and healthy cash-flow is a concern for all households, especially people in their retirement years. The holidays are an ideal time-frame for financial review, but it can be intimidating to get our house in order, as personal finances are tedious, detailed, and, for many, overwhelming.

However, a secure financial life is well within reach, and it involves taking the right steps. If you are retired or approaching your golden years, read on for four quick tips to boost your financial wellness this holiday season.

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In the last decade, we had two major market crashes. Understandably, many working professionals worry about the long-term safety of their money. They may have retirement saving plans such as 401(k) plans at their disposal. But with its contribution limits, costly tax implications, and investment options’ exposure to market risk, the 401(k) can be unseemly for conservative-minded savers.

One trend we have seen is presentation of “IUL,” or indexed universal life insurance, as an alternative to the 401(k). To be clear, IUL isn’t an investment strategy, it is a type of permanent life insurance. So be wary of discussions in which IUL is treated as an investment vehicle, especially relative to a 401(k) plan.

With that said, IUL may be attractive to retirement savers, including younger professionals, on account of its more tax-efficient advantages over the 401(k), among other benefits. Some advantages include protection against market downfalls, more flexibility with contributions and money access, and better tax treatment for future income. Keep in mind, though – just like with any financial product, suitability will always depend on individual client needs, circumstances, and objectives.

Here’s a quick overview of indexed universal life insurance, and how it can differ from a 401(k) as a wealth-accumulating option.

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 Fed reserve

What do Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, the chairperson of the Federal Reserve, and retiring Americans all have in common? In a word, interest rates – or, more precisely, how interest rates affect all of these parties.

What the Fed sets as its interest rate agenda has broad implications for the U.S. economy. It has multiple touchpoints, including Americans’ retirement income security. With that said, political climate can also be impactful. It can be influential in shaping the debate over Fed interest rate policy.

In our previous Federal Reserve blog post, you may recall how we distinguished between “permanent” income and “maybe” income – and how interest rates can affect these retirement income types. Here’s a quick look at how our current climate of political affairs, the outlook for Fed interest rate policy – and what it may mean for income-generating vehicles funding our retirement.

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How Does Financial Literacy Affect Quality of Life

Last week we discussed ways to attain comfortable financial security. Of course this doesn’t just happen on its own. Rather, it’s the result of careful evaluation of financial goals, needs, and objectives, and then laying out a blueprint to achieve those milestones.

Once you have a plan in place, it’s a matter of staying on top of your finances. With steadfast diligence and assistance from a qualified financial professional, timely checkups on your portfolio and readjustments – if needed – will help keep your financial roadmap on course. In due time, this commitment pays off. It leads to financial independence, peace of mind, and clarity in the ways you deal with your money.

Ultimately, all of this begins with financial literacy. As the old saying goes, “Knowledge is power,” and having strong financial awareness puts you in the driver’s seat for sound decision-making. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for many American households.

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How Does Financial Education Pay Off

So we’ve discussed the likely effects of having inadequate financial knowledge. Shortfalls in someone’s financial well-being or even retirement security are just a few possibilities. But it isn’t limited to just this alone.

A lack of awareness can also limit someone’s ability to capitalize on wealth-building opportunities. After all, consumers have access to a wide, diverse landscape of financial products. These selections offer differing levels of value depending on what the consumer needs, and the financial industry is also a dynamic, ever-changing space.

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Helpful Resources for Financial Education

Last week’s post covered the deficiency in Americans’ financial education. Much of it is due to gaps in financial education. Ultimately, a lack of financial awareness leads to a shortfall in financial well-being.

For National Financial Literacy Month, SafeMoney.com has partnered together with nationwide financial literacy organization Society for Financial Awareness (SOFA). Over the course of April, we’ll be publishing helpful articles with comprehensive, actionable information to help you make retirement decisions with confidence. SOFA is also providing informative, public workshops on pressing financial topics. Through this partnership, we’re working toward alleviating financial illiteracy in the United States, one community at a time.

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SOFA NFLM 2016

Since 2003, April has been recognized as National Financial Literacy Month. It’s a 30-day period consisting of nationwide efforts to promote financial awareness and its benefits among all generations of Americans. As the old chestnut says, “knowledge is power,” and strong financial awareness empowers people to make good decisions about their future.

But on that note, just why is financial education so important? Unfortunately, studies show a widespread lack of financial awareness – and with it comes greater potential for shortfalls in Americans’ financial well-being. It’s a trend with tremendous implications for all Americans.

What Do the Numbers Say?

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The Importance of Financial Education

In the past, we’ve discussed the importance of being prepared for retirement. Unfortunately, not taking proper precautions can lead to shortfalls later on. It’s important to evaluate what your retirement needs will be and to develop a roadmap to meet those objectives.

Ultimately, one significant factor behind any retirement shortfalls is a gap in financial education, especially among younger generations of Americans. Unfortunately, surveys indicate a widespread lack of financial awareness. For example, in a study by Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy, researchers graded all 50 states on what they were doing to promote financial education in the classroom.

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What the Fed is Going on

One factor which can affect retirees and pre-retirees is changing interest rates. Specifically, it’s a matter of whether they’re rising or falling – and what effects it may have on retirement income.

This week brought news from the Economic Policy Symposium, an annual gathering of Federal Reserve officials, other central bankers from across the globe, and policy experts. It’s important because the participants share their insights on many trends – including what the Fed may do with interest rates in the future.

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